Cherry growers who had hoped to be able to export their fruit into China this year are disappointed that an acceptable agreement has not been reached, but they’re hopeful the government will continue negotiations.
Kelowna grower Christine Dendy, who is president of the Okanagan Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association, says China agreed to accept cherries from Canada, but insisted on a number of restrictions which would have made it not viable for growers to ship fruit there.
For instance, she said one requirement was a mandatory 15-day period of cold treatment once the fresh fruit arrives in China, which would mean fruit flown there to ensure its freshness, would no longer have that quality advantage.
“That undermines our marketing benefit of sending them fresh fruit by air,” she commented.
“That’s unscientific and unjustified. They don’t require that of other countries. U. S. fruit is not held for 15 days,” she noted.
The Chinese contend it is intended to ensure no insect pests come in with the fruit.
However, Dendy noted that their fruit is washed, sorted and packed in a packing plant in the orchard; packaged in a plastic bag in a box, so no insects could get into the fruit once it’s packaged, which is just hours from it being picked.
It’s refrigerated immediately.
In addition, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspects fruit for export, looking for insect pests and diseases, but suddenly some countries want to design their own protocols instead of respecting the CFIA, as international markets have historically, Dendy explained.
“It’s worrying if now some countries don’t accept that,” she commented.
In fact, China didn’t even require CFIA certification of fruit imported from Canada, she said.
China also requires that all orchards be monitored from bud break through to shipping. Orchardists already do that, but not formally. This would require that orchardists fill out forms throughout the season, so there would be an incredible amount of extra paperwork.
Then, they also want fruit destined for China segregated in storage from fruit heading for other locations.
Direct access to China would allow growers far more options for marketing. Because there are direct flights there’s less handling of the fruit and a better chance that it will reliably arrive in good condition, said Dendy. By maintaining high quality, prices should also be better for the fruit.
Dendy said growers are grateful for the efforts of government to work with China to open that market, but further negotiations will be needed, because these restrictions are not realistic.
It’s a disappointment because growers had felt Chinese markets might be open this year to Canadian cherries.
“B.C. cherry growers are very disappointed in this outcome but urge the government to continue negotiations for an acceptable agreement that would allow market access for Canadian cherries to China on rational conditions, equivalent to the terms extended by China to our U.S. competitors.
“Canada’s existing CFIA inspection and phytosanitary certification protocols are internationally agreed and respected standards. The motive for the Chinese position is not clear,” commented Dendy.